What Are We Doing About the Children?

Posted by in child abuse, Louise Behiel | 18 comments

This blog begins a new series.  A difficult one.  A series that will likely be hard to read.  But I believe that safety comes from being armed by facts.  And if we know what to look for and how to recognize these situations, we can put an end to it.

So take a deep breath and read on.  Feel free to take a break and come back to this later, because it’s heavy stuff.  Know that it might raise feelings that are uncomfortable, scary or downright ugly.  It’s all normal and okay.  But if this series bring up feelings that push you down the rabbit hole or into a dark place, then please contact me by email at the link above or contact your nearest health care professional.  I can guarantee that what I’m going to talk about affects some of you, as it has me.  So take care of yourself.

As you read, please remember that many of us are survivors.  Some of us survive with more grace than others.  Some of us are comics and some of us are researchers.  Some of us are cool and some of us, like me, are not.  The statistics show that some of your friends and/or family, or perhaps yourself are survivors.  This series is going to take a look at child abuse over a four week period.  Today we’ll examine definitions and symptoms.  Monday January 16, we’ll take an in depth look at child sexual abuse.  For our children, it’s not the stranger we have to worry about – it’s our families, teachers, coaches, ministers and friends.   On January 23, we’re going to look at outcomes and treatment for those of us who were abused as children.  Then on January 30, we’ll discuss signs and symptoms that we all should be aware of so we can keep the little ones safe.  No one should be in the dark about this issue.  A child’s life may depend on our knowledge.

So please take a deep breath and sit back.  It’s time to begin.

Child abuse is an epidemic across Canada and the United States.  From www.childhelp.org come these frightening statistics:

  1.  More than 5 children die EVERY day as a result of child abuse
  2.  80% of these kids (or four of them) are under the age of four

  1. More than 90% of sexually abused juveniles and children know their abuser
  2. These stats are irrelevant of socioeconomic levels, race, religion or education
  3. 80% of adults abused as children have some sort of psychiatric disorder;  about 30% of them will abuse others when adults.
  4. 59% of abused children are more likely to be arrested as a juvenile; 28% are more likely to be arrested as an adult and 30% of them are more likely to commit a violent crime.

What are the types and symptoms of Child Abuse:

(from http://helpguide.org/mental/child_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm)

1.  Emotional:

  • Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong.
  • Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or extremely demanding; extremely passive or extremely aggressive).
  • Doesn’t seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver.
  • Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, tantruming).

2.  Physical Abuse

  • Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts.
  • Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen.
  • Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt.
  • Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
  • Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days.

3.  Neglect:

  • Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather.
  • Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor).
  • Untreated illnesses and physical injuries.
  • Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments.
  • Is frequently late or missing from school.

4. Sexual Abuse:

  • Trouble walking or sitting.
  • Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior.
  • Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
  • Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
  • An STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14.
  • Runs away from home.

That’s enough for today.  I have the sites from which I took this information, if you’d like to dig a little deeper.  Most of us don’t know these stats or are so upset by them, we don’t want to see them.  But we can’t protect our children or our grandchildren unless we are armed with information.

I’m going to give you that information, one teaspoon at a time.  You’ll have a week to think about it, digest it and come to terms with it.  And then I’ll stop.  I hope you’ll join me on this difficult road to discovery.  It won’t be pleasant but it will be worthwhile.


  1. You’re brave to be taking on this topic. Some people think there’s more child abuse going on now. Unfortunately, it’s always been there–but nobody acknowledged it. The more we bring it out in the open, the more children we save. As a survivor, I thank you for this.

    • Thanks, Anne. As a survivor I had to start the discussion. funny, not many hits to this post, but sooner or later, as we all ‘turn on the light’, it will become okay to talk about this epidemic that’s always been around.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Debra. The end of child abuse is in beginning the discussion.

  3. I agree with Janelle, the uncomfortable subjects are the often the ones we need to shine a light on. Thank you for open up this discussion Louise. It was a tough one to take on, I have no doubt and you are a brave woman to doing so. I admire you for the thought and time you put into this post. Good work.

  4. Thanks for reminding us of an uncomfortable but very important topic. What’s the most disturbing perhaps is when you suspect something might be going on, but aren’t sure what to do about it (not enough evidence to go to authorities, for instance). I hope you cover that aspect more in future posts, and I’ll be reading.

    • Jennette, I’ve made a note of the info you want and will do my best to address it in future posts. this is such a huge topic and is so prevalent that we all need to be well informed.

  5. Thanks for the kind words Janelle. As a therapist, I work with many women who were abused as children. If someone had known what to look for their lives would have been so different. So I spread the word. be well

  6. Louise, you’re brave to take on this topic. Sometimes the subjects that are uncomfortable are the ones that most need to be brought out into the open. I’ll be reading your series as it continues.

  7. As a survivor sometimes we have only our memories to go on. As a mother and grandmother I need to be always watching my loved ones. I would be devastated to miss a sign I should have noticed.

    • Absolutely agree Jill. Thats why I decided to write this series.

  8. Sometimes when people see signs of abuse, they are afraid to interfere. But better to interfere and be wrong than to look the other way. Thanks for this important topic, Louise.

    • I think many of us don’t know what to look for specifically Sheila. so I decided to do this series.

  9. Thank you for this. Heavy, horrible topic that a lot of people seem to conveniently discard. Because it’s too unpleasent. But we need to discuss it if we want to change things.

    • April, that is exactly why I posted it – we can’t stop it if we don’t talk about it.

  10. Tough topic but not one we should shy away from ever! Thank you for bringing awareness to everyone and for sharing such important information!!!

    • Natalie, thanks for your support. I agree that we should always be willing to discuss such an important issue.

  11. Coleen, you are the early bird today. I believe we have to be aware so we can ensure the help they need is available. Have a great one.

  12. Tough information to hear, but so important, especially because it can be so complicated for children to ask for the help they need. Thanks for sharing,

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